I love the symmetry of a life like that, love the idea of Sunday dinner, the whole family gathered around one big farmhouse table

I was a child of the small-town South of the early ’60s, and all the women I knew stayed home with their children, whether they cared to or not…I also expected to get married and have children. Of course I would; that’s what little girls did…What I would be was a mother.

It’s not such a retro idea when you grow up in a family like mine…But I asked my Mother once what she felt she had been born to be, and without hesitation she said, “I was born to be a mother.” My father felt the same way about being a father. Everything my parents did, they did to support the family. We children were their role in the world…

But God help the woman who believes this message too wholeheartedly, who feels too acutely that motherhood truly defines her. The very culture that insists that raising a child is the single most important thing a woman can do with her life also maintains that she must be willing to surrender that identity the instant her child leaves home. The notorious “helicopter parent,” the meddling mother, the critical mother-in-law — these are all tropes at least as pervasive and unchallenged as any Madonna and Child image of manifest womanhood. A mother who can’t “let go” is a grasping, desperate creature, entirely to be pitied if not openly reviled…

It wasn’t always this way. When the house my grandparents lived in burned down during the Depression, the whole family moved in with my great-grandparents. When my other great-grandmother became widowed, she joined them in the farmhouse. No one questioned the wisdom of this arrangement or suspected any of them of being emotionally stunted, unable to let go. They simply expected to spend the rest of their lives together, sitting on the porch in the cool of the evening, talking to one another.

I love the symmetry of a life like that, love the idea of Sunday dinner after church, the whole family gathered around one big farmhouse table, but I’m also grateful to live in my own time and place…

But I struggle with the constant reminders that my sons share their lives primarily with people I’ve never met, that they all do work I know only in its broadest outlines. They love me; I know that. They call often to chat, and they don’t hesitate to ask for advice if they’re unsure of something. But exactly as their own culture demands, they have also created lives in which my husband and I are on the margins. Peripheral. Almost obsolete. Even a house fire would not send them back to live with us forever.

I will love having them all home for Mother’s Day, but in one tiny little corner of my mind I will also be missing the days when they were still so small and so needy, when the family circle was still close and closed. I will miss the smell of their sweaty little-boy necks and the feel of their damp fingers clutching my blouse as I bounced them on my hip. And I will remember all the years when Mother’s Day meant crayoned cards and plaster-of-Paris handprints and weedy bouquets made of clover and henbit and creeping Charlie and dandelion. The most beautiful flowers in all the world.

~ Margaret Renkl, excerpts from The Mother’s Day Trap (NY Times, May 7, 2018)

 


Photo: Elena Shumilova (Saint-Petersburg) with  a bit more about golden fish

Truth

Here’s Pavarotti copied from an interview somewhere:

One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.”

Patricia HamplThe Art of the Wasted Day (Published April 17, 2018)

 


Photo: BonAppétit, Pappardelle with Arugula and Prosciutto

 

irrefutable evidence

Dogs
are
convincing evidence that there is a God.

~ Michael WadeRandom Thoughts: Brief Reflections and Moments of Clarity


Photo: Our Zeke (2007-2016)

From this Papa too. Yes. Me too.

My favorite space is the living room, by the fireplace. It’s warm and serene, and covered in adobe tiles made by an artist friend of mine when he was in his 90s. I practice there when I’m not on tour.

Perhaps my most beloved possession is a framed note on the wall that my father wrote to me in his 90s. He didn’t communicate well with his kids. In the note, he wrote, “Dearest Joanie, I love it when you visit me. From your Papa, with love.” It pleases me that he finally wrote me something nice.

~ Joan Baez, from  How Joan Baez Found Her Voice (wsj.com, Feb 27, 2018)


 

Peaceful easy feeling

house-feb-2018

53° F on Friday.

39° on Saturday morning.

Spring!

So when it started at 7 pm last night, it felt anything but that.  A December feeling in February.

Large, wet flakes, falling softly.

I turn off the television. Enough Mueller, Trump, collusion, and spit from the talking heads on Cable. Dirty. Ugly.

Light from the street lamps paint the fresh snow with a soft amber glow. Magical. “This voice keeps whispering in my other ear…I get this peaceful easy feeling…”

I watch from the window inside.

Mother and Son build a snowman, Eric is days from his 24th birthday.  They’re giggling.

Flashbacks. Rosy cheeks. Over sized mittens. Snow pants swishing. Arms swinging up and down, angels in snow. What’s this portrait missing? Rachel who couldn’t make it home for the weekend. And Zeke. Yes, Zeke loved the snow. Snow flakes melting on his velvety reddish brown fur. Barking, and barking and barking at Dad who chases the kids and pelts them with snowballs. Who you protecting these days Bud? [Read more…]

the beginning, the middle, and the end

They sleep early and rise in the dark. It is winter now. The nights are long but outside, where the leaves have fallen from the branches, the snowed-in light comes through. There is a cat who finds the puddles of sunshine. She was small when the boy was small, but then she grew up and left him behind. Still, at night, she hunkers down on Kiri’s bed, proprietorial. They were born just a few weeks apart, but now he is seven and she is forty-four. My son is the beginning, the middle, and the end. When he was a baby, I used to follow him on my hands and knees, the two of us crawling over the wood floors, the cat threading between our legs. Hello, hello, my son would say. Hello, my good friend. How are you? He trundled along, an elephant, a chariot, a glorious madman.

 

Running to 2018. (Not.) Grounded.

It’s the morning weigh-in, the same weigh-in that takes place every morning during the prior 365 days, but there are differences. Major similarities and major differences. A few notables.

It’s New Year’s Day.

It’s early morning, and I’m in the bathroom.

For the pre-weigh-in ritual, I prepare. I sit on the toilet and drain every ounce of excess weight. Every ounce counts.  And then, I strip the body of all clothing. Socks. Undershirt. Undershorts. And, Smartwatch. Yes, I sleep with to measure sleep time, even though measuring the inverse, insomnia, would be a more useful and interesting data point for researchers.

While I’m sitting pondering life on the toilet, I admire the new scale sitting on the floor in front of me. A Xmas gift from the Kids. An electronic scale from Nokia, the “Body Cardio.” It has a smooth, gunmetal finish, and was manufactured by some craftsman (craftswoman?) in Espoo, Finland. You step on the scale and its gremlins beam your weight, heart rate, fat mass, muscle mass, water and bone mass, directly to your Health Mate smartphone app. A miracle, really, all of it.

I reach for the counter to raise myself ever so gently from the toilet, trying to avoid ripping the sutures. The eyes skitter frantically trying to avoid the midsection. But as hard as they try, they can’t: Unavoidable. From the waist down to the upper thigh, the skin is discolored, a dark, deep purple – Skin’s way of saying: “Listen Pal, while you were resting peacefully under anesthesia for this ‘routine’ surgery, I was getting chopped up.” And if that wasn’t enough, there was swelling, significant swelling around the incision and freakish skin discoloration of all of Man’s reproductive organs. And this swelling is not that which you find part of the normal, reproductive process. Routine surgery? Will this all work again? A nightmare, really.

The heat is turned down overnight, I’m standing on cold floor tile, I shiver. Can’t bear to look.

I look back up.  I take a deep breath, and deliberately take one step and then the other to stand on the cool metal scale. The eyes are panicked, doing everything possible to bypass the midsection carnage and focus on the digital readout.

The scale recognizes the weight, which triggers a digital read-out: “Happy New Year David.” The ‘Happy New Year’ is wrapped in beautiful white fireworks. Nice touch. I hope the Happy part commences soon. The scale mechanically proceeds through its sequence of weight (including day over day up/down change), my heart rate, BMI, muscle mass, water and bone mass. Then it offers up the previous day’s step count. And, shares today’s weather, the high and low temperature.  Miracle, all of it.

So, we can stop here. Breath deeply and say, ok, life goes on.

But there’s more. A wee bit more to this story. [Read more…]

part of the painting’s magic is that it brings together its time and yours, its place and yours

If you have ever stood in a room in front of a painting by Munch, or Van Gogh or Rembrandt for that matter, you will know that part of the painting’s magic is that it brings together its time and yours, its place and yours, and there is comfort in that, because even the distance that is inherent in loneliness is suspended in that moment.

– Karl Ove Knausgård, in a preface for a catalog for: Edvard Munch: Between the Clock and the Bed – an exhibition at the Met Breuer, New York City, November 15, 2017–February 4, 2018. (The New York Review of Books, Dec 7 2017)


Notes:

  1. Post Inspiration. Rainer Maria Rilke from The Poetry of RilkeNothing is too small: against a gold background / I paint it large and lovingly / and hold it high, and I will never know / whose soul it may release.
  2. Art: Edvard Munch, “The Sick Child” (1907) via San Francisco Chronicle
  3. Quote Source – ekphora.

Sunday Morning: Perhaps, that is enough.

While not a believer himself, Mr. Ruse harbors a great deal of sympathy for those who find ultimate meaning in the universe and their lives through worship. Taking his cue from his own Quaker upbringing, he argues that three things remain deeply satisfying in life, even if philosophically one ends up on the side of Epicurus and his denial of design: family; a life of service to others; and, not surprisingly for a philosopher, the life of the mind. For many people, there is indeed purpose in each of these, and perhaps, Mr. Ruse suggests, that is enough.

~ John Farrell, from his “Review: To What End is All This?” where Farrell reviews ‘On Purpose’ by Michael Ruse


 

Photo of Dr. Michael Ruse via Strange Notions

Each small accomplishment completed brings me closer to…what exactly? The finish line?

katrina-kenison.jpg

All month I’ve been making lists, crossing things off lists, making new lists – grocery lists, to-do lists, gift lists. Somehow the act of writing things down and crossing them out calms me, as if each small accomplishment or task completed brings me closer to…what exactly? The finish line?

Of course, the idea of completion is an illusion. There will be to-dos until the day when there aren’t, and I’m certainly not in any hurry to get there. Nor do I want to look at December 25 as the end of some silly holiday race.

So my challenge today, and every day this season, is to simply relax into the day’s doings, whatever they may be. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that the closer I stay to home and hearth during these short, dark days, the more peaceful I feel.

~ Katrina Kenison, from “Spicy Holiday Granola” (December 15, 2017)

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